Simple Strategies for Improving Apparel SEO

The numerous options available for apparel items can make merchandising challenging for ecommerce retailers. With numerous color, size, and other combinations available for given items, it takes a bit of strategy to ensure that your items show up in search results for customers.

Smart Product Pages

For a long time, a common practice was to put each variation of a single item on its own page. If a shirt came in sizes S-XL and in three different colors, each size/color combination had it’s own page – even if all the other details about the shirt didn’t change. Doing this today can have disastrous consequences on where your merchandise appears in search results. A pair of pants may come in a half dozen colors, with different lengths and waist measurements. You should make it as easy as possible for customers to find the pants and select the appropriate features.

apparel merchandising pant size color

Image via Duluth Trading Co.

In apparel, products have numerous, nearly identical iterations. These differences are essential to a customer’s purchase decision but creating separate pages for each size/color option will negatively impact how your site appears to customers. A 2014 study found that more than 71% of searches on Google resulted in organic clicks on the first page of results. Nearly 68% of those searches clicked through on one of the first five results. Beyond the first page, the number of search results clicked through dwindles to less than 6%. Appearing at the top of search results has clear benefits.

The solution to this challenge is straightforward: create product pages that allow you to include all the different variations in one place. This will concentrate information about a given product, making it easier for both customers and search engines to find the product. Customers appreciate not having to hunt through product pages to find the must-have dress in their size.

apparel ecommerce merchandising color size

Image via

Take advantage of merchandising tools to make this engaging for customers, too: dynamic swatches to let customers see and select their prefered color and see their piece of clothing in that color; drop-down menus to select size or length make adding items to carts straightforward, removing barriers to conversion.

Straightforward URL Structure

Make it easy for customers to browse your site and find what they are looking for with clear, straightforward URL structure. When a customer glances at the web address, they should be able to identify what department they’re located in without effort – just as if they were standing in the middle of a department and looked around to determine where they were. For example, glancing at the address bar for the the category page below tells the customer they are in the Newborn section of the site, looking at Rompers specifically.

apparel ecommerce breadcrumb

Image via Tea Collection

As customers get further into browsing, a breadcrumb trail on each product page helps them keep track of what department and category they are shopping, making it easy for them to find their way around – and back to a specific item at a later point if necessary.

If a product can be found in multiple categories, it is important to have a single product page to which all links refer back to. This helps consolidate SEO information and ensures the product page shows up when it should in search results. Was with item variables, keeping a product in one easily-identifiable will keep it at the top of the results page.

Unique & Useful Product Descriptions

Brand identity is an important component in fostering relationships with your customers. Showing customers how your apparel stands apart – and will set them apart – is an important part of building that connection with customers. Writing content descriptions and creating unique content that reflects your brand identity will not only deepen the bond between your company and your customers, but it will also improve SEO – particularly if other sites are offering the same product from your supplier. While your competitors use a generic description provided by your supplier (and perhaps other competitors), describing the item in your brand voice will not only appeal to your customers, but the original content will improve your search standing. You don’t need to write an essay about each product, but be sure that the product information includes what will matter to your customers – and if you do it in your own unique brand voice so much the better. The description below both illustrates the feature of the climbing pack and conveys Patagonia’s brand identity as a company focused on exceptional gear for mountaineering and sustainability.

product description brand identity

Product Description for Patagonia Linked Pack 16L via

Implementing best-practices to improve SEO and draw more customers to your site isn’t daunting. As with so much of apparel ecommerce, it simply requires putting a bit of thought into your company’s goals, what you are currently doing to meet those goals, and building a strategy to better meet or exceed those goals. Adjusting an existing strategy or launching a new one requires rethinking how you have handled product pages, URLs, or descriptions in the past. The improved traffic and conversions that came from your improved strategy will pay for that effort in the long run.

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Robust Promotional Tools to Drive Apparel eCommerce Sales

Customers love a good deal. As the ecommerce landscape evolves, so too do promotional tools that you can use to draw customers to your site and drive sales. Free shipping – as standard practice or as special limited-time promotion – is a great place to start to help increase sales and drive conversions. There are many more techniques you can use, however, to make the most of your promotional strategy. The best ecommerce platforms will provide you the tools necessary to create complex, creative, and effective incentive programs.

Creativity with Coupons

Coupons that provide a set discount (either percentage or dollar amount off) are among the most common promotions offered today. The concept is familiar to customers, who understand the appeal and are therefore more likely to act on it, and can be effective when utilized as part of your larger marketing strategy. However, there are numerous other ways to use coupons – some of which may actually result in higher average order values in spite of the discount.

mobile ecommerce

Coupons created in a complex rule-based system allow you to offer more than just straight discounts. Can you think of a set of logical rules to create a coupon? Why not create a coupon based on those rules? A coupon generator built on logic with easy-to-manage rules allows you to impose complex restrictions to better manage when and how customers utilize discounts in your ecommerce store. For example, you can offer a $10 discount on boy’s t-shirt (and even restrict it to items you know to be overstocked) when the customer also purchases a pair of boy’s shorts. The customer may have been intending to purchase both items from the outset, but offering a promotion like that encourages the conversion on both items and secures the sale.

Segmentation and Surprise

Another advantage of a rules-based discount system is that you can offer promotions to restricted categories of customers. This may involve sending an email to a target group of customers (for example, those who have purchased within the last year, but not within the last six months) offering a discount on an order over $100. When one of those customers comes to your site and logs-in to complete their purchase, the system will recognize them as eligible for the discount and allow them to take advantage of it and strengthening the relationship between that customer and your brand.

ecommerce keyboard

Other creative discount strategies may include offering flash sales to segments of customers – time-limited codes that create urgency and a sense of exclusivity among those who are selected to take advantage of the promotion. You can offer private sales for your most loyal customers in the weeks before Thanksgiving, encouraging them to get their holiday shopping done early. You can even adjust what content certain groups of customers see, based on their geo-IP or some other factor, which can be helpful for segment testing to determine effectiveness of promotions.

Take the Time to Test

As with any well-executed marketing strategy, testing the effectiveness of promotions is crucial. A promotional system based on logic and rules allows for easy segmentation of customers into test groups. You can test language used for in an email promotion, which promotional codes people are most likely to take advantage of (straight discount, buy-one-get-one, buy x and receive y, etc.), discounts on certain categories but not others – whatever the rules of your system allow. Moreover, a good ecommece platform will provide you with ways to analyze and report on these tests, allowing you to make the best promotional decisions for your ecommerce store.


Robust Promotional Tools, Robust Promotional Results

Creating an effective and strong promotional strategy can be challenging – the balance between incentivizing your customers while not undermining your profits is a delicate one. But whatever your strategy looks like, your ecommerce platform should afford you with the tools to easily build promotional campaigns that rely on complex rules to target the people and products you want. You’ve worked hard to keep your ecommerce store competitive in the face of rapid change; it makes sense that your promotional campaigns keep up as well.

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3 Reasons to Integrate Your eCommerce Systems

To stay competitive in ecommerce, you have to be able to respond quickly to customer demands. This may mean integrating with new social media platforms, deploying new marketing strategies, taking advantage of innovative merchandising tools, or responding thoroughly and effectively to service requests. Integrating the systems that handle various elements of your ecommerce apparel business not only makes you more effective, but it can help you stay competitive. It can even provide you with unexpected opportunities for growth – courting customers overseas or by moving into the DTC market after years of success serving B2B customers.

Better Inventory Tracking

Unreliable inventory numbers can lead to lost sales and unhappy customers. While calling to notify a customer that an item they requested is actually out of stock, it’s worse still to have that customer leave your site entirely when discovering their desired item is “out of stock.” Having a supermaster for inventory, functioning as a central trusted source of inventory data across your system ensures that consistent and accurate stock levels are available at any time.

Tracking Inventory

Having one integrated inventory system allows you to connect warehouse, retail, and suppliers, providing a single, enterprise view capable of near-real-time reporting on stock levels. This ensures your website is up-to-date, that your supply chain is ready to replenish stock as needed, and that customer service reps have details about when that new inventory will be ready to sell and ship. It allows you the opportunity to create a pre-order system, if appropriate, to capture sales from eager customers even before items arrive in stock.

Effective Order Fulfillment

An integrated system lets your fulfillment team easily manage orders and fulfillment. It allows for adjustments to orders based on customer requests – additions, updates, cancellations, re-orders – quickly and effectively. The most adaptable integrated systems even let customers make adjustments themselves, empowering them with self-service. It also allows you to provide the shipping options that make the most sense for your customers, from standard to drop-shipping to expedited. If unforeseen circumstances prevent you from fulfilling an order as anticipated, an integrated system can provide tools to make necessary adjustments – and keep customers satisfied.

Workers In Warehouse Preparing Goods For Dispatch

Streamlined Customer Management

Having a single, trusted source for all your customer data – with connections to order history and marketing data – makes it easy to analyze and identify trends, allowing you to make better-informed marketing decisions to target and win customers. Understanding customer habits and motivations is one of the most challenging aspects of running an ecommerce business; to stay competitive it is essential that you investigate and capitalize on the data available to you.

The deeper you investigate browsing and spending habits, the more effective you can be with retargeting campaigns, recapturing abandoned shopping carts, and offering promotional incentives. By integrating customer data with order and inventory tracking systems – with all your ecommerce platform systems – the more competitive you can be in reaching the customers you want to reach, whether you are expanding into a new market or looking to enhance brand penetration in your current market.Customer Service Representatives

Most importantly, integrating systemsallows you to better serve your customers. If your customer service team can access information related to orders, item data, help tickets, and customer history in one place, they can deliver more accurate information to customers. They do not need to track down information about an order in multiple systems – it is all readily accessible from a single back-office toolkit. This makes for more thorough and more satisfying service interactions for customers, solving problems quickly but without sacrificing accuracy or quality.
As we have illustrated before, integrated ecommerce systems provide you with numerous opportunities to increase efficiency across your business. Moreover, they allow can highlight areas for improving business processes, make you better able to respond to customer interests and market trends, and make your company more competitive in a cutthroat ecommerce environment. It may take some effort to bring your systems into alignment, but the improved communication and chances for growth it presents make the effort worthwhile.

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5 Keys to Building Strong Brand Identity

The relationship you create between your company and your customers is crucial to success in ecommerce. Brand identity is what draws customers to you, what keeps customers coming back, what inspires them to stick with you if things go wrong, and what can drive you to grow and improve your company. We can all probably name a dozen brands that stand out for cultivating a distinct brand identity. But what did these brands do to create that strong identity? And how can new, emerging, or established retailers work towards developing that same kind of recognition?

Know Your Company

In building your business, you’ve probably asked and answered dozens of questions to help define your company – about audience, aesthetic, tone, voice, marketing, merchandise, logistics, suppliers, short-term and long-term goals. Use that knowledge to your advantage in formulating your brand identity. If you’ve done a thorough analysis of your company and your goals – and figured out what you want the company to stand for – you probably already have all the information you need.

Branding word cloud

With the growth ecommerce, consumers are spoiled for choice when selecting vendors; once you’ve defined your brand, you need a plan to develop a relationship with your customers that will engage them and keep them coming back – through ups and downs. This can happen through essential elements like website design and email marketing layout, and more sophisticated avenues like your preferred social media channels. But beware – once you have established a reputation with your customers, they will expect you to deliver and meet their expectations.

Know Your Passion

Nearly as important as knowing yourself, and being able to articulate your brand identity, is knowing what sets your company apart and what your company is passionate about. That passion may relate directly to your brand – why you established the company in the first place, what gap you set out to fill – or it may not. The important fact is that this passion differentiates you from competitors, provides a point of reference and familiarity that customers can attach to.mission statement apparel

For example, children’s clothing retailer Tea Collection was born from the co-founders’ passion for travel and desire to create products and experiences that last. To that end, twice a year the design team travels someplace new to draw inspiration for their next line of clothing. This only results in innovative, distinct designs that reflect the company’s passion and sets them apart, it also provides them ample opportunity to tell their brand story. Throughout May, Tea highlighted a recent trip to India, using the tag #WeGoThereIndia and promoting across social media and email.

apparel inspiration

Providing a way for your customers to witness and relate to your passion underscores the bond built on transactional interactions. It is what will bring them to your site even if they aren’t looking for something in particular, that will prompt them to recommend your brand to others, what will inspire them to stick with you when they might otherwise move on.

Know Your Customers

After spending time to articulate and shape your brand identity and figure out how to share your passion effectively, understanding what appeals to and attracts your target audience should be fairly straightforward. Knowing the interests, concerns, motivations, and passions of your customers helps direct marketing efforts and can provide you with essential tools to drive conversions and build your customer base.

brand identity

For example, outdoor clothing and gear company Patagonia grew from a small company that created tools for climbers. Knowing the needs of early customers allowed the company to grow while staying true to the brand identity they’d established and following a passion for quality product and environmental responsibility. This strong brand identity and understanding of their customer base allows Patagonia to make unconventional marketing and business decisions – producing documentaries about environmental issues, and adopting fair trade policies and utilizing organic cotton before such things came into vogue. This knowledge of customer concerns has paid off, with the company experiencing significant growth in spite of an anti-consumption position.

Stay Consistent

Once you’ve articulated and honed your company’s brand identity, don’t sway from it needlessly. Customers look for authenticity from brands, too. Dramatic or sudden shifts in company position, or anything that rings false to consumers will put them off and undermine your relationship with them. The effects of New Coke were longer lasting than Coca-Cola would have liked, and it took time for the brand to recover from the misstep.  Once you have a compelling, unique value proposition for your brand – stick with it and repeat it again and again.

apparel ecommerce inspiration

However, this doesn’t mean periodic assessments of your brand, vision, and position aren’t worthwhile. Even if your brand is well-established, periodic considerations of what the brand means to people in a changing retail landscape are important to staying vital. Assessing and adapting your brand image to meet modern expectations should not be done lightly. Small and consistent adjustments over time (change in tone on social media, shift to more images over text, innovative ways to present customer feedback, etc.) may be enough to realign your brand and begin building a stronger relationship with customers; more drastic steps should grow from concerted need and should go through those challenging brand-formulating questions you faced when first setting up. Changes in how you convey your brand identity will affect relationships with customers; dramatic changes have to be worth the risk.

Stay Competitive

It’s important to stick to your brand identity, but that doesn’t mean set-and-forget. Assess your strengths, and those of your competitors, and work to capitalize on strength while providing a clear alternative to competitors. Your passion is important here, as are understanding the interests of customers and the consistency of message. Competitiveness can take many forms – providing outstanding customer service like Nordstrom, staying cutting edge (and cool) like Apple, curating a personalized shopping experience like Amazon, sticking to your founding principles like Patagonia, or telling your brand story in a unique way like Tea Collection. Take the time to figure out where your company has stand out from the competition. It will set you apart, inspire customers, and strengthen the relationship you’ve built between them and your brand.

Build It Right

Remember, lasting relationships aren’t built overnight; worthwhile ones are worth the investment of time and effort. Take time to articulate your brand identity, find your passion, and get to know your customers. This will help you forge strong bonds between your customers and your brand, and keep them coming back time and again. Stay consistent to retain authenticity in the eyes of your customers and keep your competitive advantages close to mind, so that you can continue to stand out from the competition. Find an ecommerce platform that has tools to help you showcase your brand identity and build those customer relationships – the time and effort will be worth it.

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5 Essential Features for Success in Apparel eCommerce

In today’s competitive ecommerce landscape, retailers need to capitalize on every opportunity to capture a sale. Market conditions can change rapidly, and it’s important to ensure that you have a platform that can respond nimbly and effectively. While the list of essential features for the right ecommerce platform may can be long, there are a few elements of particular import to apparel retailers. In addition to the features you need in a platform, make sure they can adequately address the concerns specific to apparel ecommerce. Not all platforms can respond to the fast-paced demands of apparel. I’ll discuss each of these in greater detail in coming weeks.

Tools to Communicate Your Brand

Perhaps more than any other type of commerce, brand identity is essential to success in apparel ecommerce. With numerous options available to consumers online, you need to take time to think about what sets your brand apart – and why customers should select you over your competitors. Once you have can articulate your brand identity and what sets you apart, you need tools to establish and cultivate your identity. The right ecommerce platform will give you a multitude of tools to do this – and may even have the flexibility to build new ones.

brand story trail running film

Image from

Dynamic and Integrated Systems

There’s nothing worse than having to notify a customer that the hot item they ordered has unexpectedly gone out of stock. Fortunately, avoiding that uncomfortable conversation is pretty easy – integrate your systems so that inventory tracking, order fulfillment, and customer management are connected. Integrated systems will provide more accurate information for customers and your service reps, which will make for happier customers all around.

Robust Promotional Tools

Customer loyalty is a key component to your success, and offering customers promotional discounts can be one part of your strategy in cultivating that loyalty. Having robust promotional tools provide you with greater competitive advantage and allow you to better leverage customer interest for successful promotional campaigns. As customers become more savvy in their shopping – and discount-hunting – habits, it’s important to respond accordingly. Being able to target specific customer groups, or place restrictions on how, when, and by whom certain promotions can be used, allow you to be smarter with your promotions.

Tea Journey to Jaipur Sweeps

Native SEO Best Practice Tools

Customers must find you before they can buy from you. All the effort you put into cultivating your brand identity, integrating systems, and developing effective promotional tools won’t matter much if your merchandise does not appear in search results. This can prove especially challenging for apparel retailers, where a single item may have a dozen different variations in color or size. You need a platform that can handle the unique demands of apparel ecommerce and will make sure your products are displayed properly so that you rise to the top of the search results.

Innovative Merchandising Tools

The brick-and-mortar era of apparel had window and in-store displays to attract and persuade customers to make purchases; the ecommerce era of retail needs its own tools for merchandising. Whether it means controlling the order in which merchandise appears on a page, having dynamic color swatches for customers to easily see what an item will look like, or having a shoppable lookbook, apparel ecommerce requires unique and innovative tools to remain competitive. With an industry where trends can shift quickly, it’s important not only that your platform provide easy-to-use tools that reflect current trends but also has the flexibility and creativity to adapt and develop tools to effectively tackle the apparel merchandising

In coming weeks, we will diveinto greater detail on all five of these topics and provide some insight in how to use them to best effect. What questions do you have about how to make the most of these 5 essential tools for apparel ecommerce? How have you used them to reach your customers?

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Social Growth and Engagement with AddShoppers and Upshot

Sideshow Collectibles – A Client Case Study

About Sideshow Collectibles

Established in 1994, Sideshow Collectibles is a specialty manufacturer and distributor of high-end licensed and proprietary collectible products. They serve a passionate community of more than 212,000 users in 123 countries. Their development team creates original designs and intricately detailed likenesses of popular characters from highly recognized brands, such as Star Wars, Marvel, DC Comics, The Lord of the Rings, and more. Sideshow is regularly recognized for the quality and authenticity of designs, including “Best of the Year” distinctions, by national trade and specialty publications.

Sideshow Landing

The Challenge

After cultivating a strong ecommerce market and devoted, passionate customer base, Sideshow began looking for ways leverage information to better target their customers. They decided to integrate an on-site marketing layer – AddShoppers – to better understand customer browsing and purchase behavior. Upshot provided the tools to develop that on-site layer of engagement to fit Sideshow’s business needs; AddShoppers provided the tools to engage site visitors, measure activity, and grow sales.

The Process

Sideshow Collectibles began working with Upshot (formerly Make-A-Store) in 1999, taking advantage of platform customizations to allow for effective presentation of their unique merchandise. The close relationship that developed between the companies has allowed Upshot to thoroughly understand Sideshow’s evolving business needs, working together to develop the tools necessary to allow Sidedshow to grow, and providing ongiong exceptional service and support. As Chris Pirrotta, Director of Ecommerce for Sideshow explains, despite their complex database and merchandising needs, “We’ve never had any limitations to our software. That has been extremely effective in our market, allowing us to adjust quickly. The level of support has been above and beyond.”

Sideshow Browse All

The numerous merchandising tools available to Sideshow through Upshot – from core platform components to existing extensions to newly-developed features – have allowed them to cultivate a large, passionate customer base. Sideshow is able to manipulate their databases daily, making adjustments based on customer behavior, and keep inventory fresh and accurate – it’s flexibility they can’t get from any other platform. As Pirrotta says, Sideshow “doesn’t consider looking anywhere else because the [Upshot] platform is so great.” The company has utilized these tools and customer passion over the years to their advantage, developing a rewards program, and building a successful affiliate program that allowed Sideshow to expand internationally.

Leveraging Passionate Customers

Sideshow had already taken numerous steps to leverage its large, passionate customer base. Partnering with AddShoppers and integrating their software into Upshot was a logical next step. Having an on-site marketing layer allows for instant social feedback from their highly-passionate customers. Customers can share finds and purchases with friends, generating excitement that is critical to the success of Sideshow.

Sideshow Share

Facebook integration has also proved highly useful for Sideshow, especially in partnering with AddShoppers. In addition to incentivizing Facebook sharing, the Want/Own buttons help increase and deepen customer engagement with Sideshow. With AddShoppers Sideshow has been able to identify influential fans, observe their behavior to better understand their browsing habits and develop and adapt marketing strategies based on more comprehensive information about fan behavior.

The Result

Since Sideshow Collectibles launched with AddShoppers in May of 2014, they have identified nearly 5,000 social influencers and analyzed their sharing habits to better understand the role social media plays in the Sideshow customer experience. Over the last year, the top 500 products have been shared 979 times, primarily on Facebook (75%) but also via Google+, email, and Pinterest. Reporting available through AddShoppers indicates the majority of Facebook engagement comes from the “Like” button on the product page (12,000+ Likes across all products), but customers also utilize the Want/Own options (3,195 and 576, respectively), and post products to their personal Facebook pages (5,757 posts).

Analysis from AddShoppers indicates that conversion is most successful when items are shared via email (16%), though Google+ resulted in conversion 3% of the time, and Facebook with 1% of shares – figures consistent with AddShoppers 2014 Social Commerce Breakdown. One of the most commonly shared pages, for a sixth scale figure of Marvel character Deadpool, was shared by identified influencers 125 times, generated over 7,000 clicks and 194 orders sitewide, with an AOV resulting from shares of $422.

Here Comes Deadpool

Working with both Upshot and AddShoppers has proved successful and painless for Sideshow. As Pirrotta explains, both Upshot and AddShoppers have “always been extremely effective in communication, providing timely and quick responses to issues.” Upshot provides “personal and intimate support from the team, with a history of responding to needs as they come up,” while getting a response from AddShoppers has been equally painless – “When you want an answer, they have it for you almost immediately.”

Over the last 16 years, working with Upshot has allowed Sideshow Collectibles to craft an ecommerce platform ideally suited to fit their business needs – from Want/Own buttons, to an affiliate program that allowed for growth internationally, to a rewards program built with Sideshow customers in mind. All these tools were integrated with an easy-to-use backend toolkit that allows Sideshow to manipulate their databases daily, responding to changes and trends in their market. Partnership with AddShoppers has assisted Sideshow in better understanding customer data and browsing behavior, and allowed them to make informed marketing decisions and increase social engagement across their growing customer base.

About AddShoppers

AAddShoppers bannerddShoppers powers social commerce for over 10,000 brands including The Economist, NCR, O’Neill Clothing, and Everlast. With just a few snippets of code, marketers are empowered with accurate revenue attribution, exportable lists of purchase influencers, and easy to create referral marketing campaigns including Refer-A-Friend, Social Rewards, and more. With AddShoppers it’s easy to collect more emails with dynamic targeted Smart Offers plus our Smart Social Sharing Buttons are built to enhance your email marketing and retargeting campaigns with powerful social data. Visit AddShoppers to learn more about what they offer.

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Cultivating Strong Customer Loyalty

As much as ecommerce transformed the retail landscape in the last decade, social media has transformed the landscape of ecommerce in a shorter period of time. Customers engage with brands in ways that differ greatly from previous generations and this will continue to change as technology evolves. As your company crafts customer engagement strategies, it is important to keep changing trends and shifting behavior in mind. Developing strong relationships with your customers and fostering brand loyalty may hinge on how well you engage with or respond to social media trends.

Image courtesy of

Image via

An effective loyalty program can be a useful tool in this process. In establishing or developing one, planning can be crucial in making the expense and effort worthwhile – consider what methods you will use to engage customers and foster that loyalty, and what metrics you will use to quantify the relative success of your program. According to research conducted by COLLOQUY, average U.S. households are signed up for nearly 22 separate loyalty programs, but actively use less than half. How can you ensure your program is one of that handful that customers actually use, so that you realize return on your investment in the program and increase customer loyalty and engagement?

Elements of an Effective Loyalty Program

First and foremost, an effective loyalty program creates a unique experience that ties your customers to your brand. It provides them with a reason to choose you over other vendors when today’s ecommerce marketplace offers seemingly limitless choice. A loyalty program should offer services that customers can’t find anywhere else, whether that means points-for-purchase or some other perk, and integrate as much as possible into the overall customer experience.

Consider alternative avenues of for offering rewards

As mentioned above, points-for-purchase are the most common structure of loyalty programs, awarding customers a certain number of points per dollar spent in your store. When handled correctly, these can encourage customers to return to use their accrued rewards. But many people see these relationship as one-sided: they spend money and get a discount on a future purchase.  Alternatives like experience giveaways, exclusive digital or physical content, and sweepstakes can better engage customers, creating unique experiences that  foster deeper brand loyalty.

Starwoods Now the Fun Part

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Consider what type of loyalty you’re looking for – and personalize

Passionate interest in a brand will predispose some customers towards a loyalty program.  Cultivating loyalty based on that passion can provide great dividends, especially when paired with unique or value-added awards tailored to meet your customer’s interests – exclusive content, pre-order opportunities, access to special events, etc. In recent years, brands have shifted from legacy-based loyalty programs (where people participate because they’ve known/shopped the brand a long time) to cult-based loyalty programs (where people have specific passion about a product – like fans of Apple products).

Sideshow Double Rewards

Once you’ve found your passionate, loyal customers, it’s also important to offer content they will find meaningful. Personalization is essential to a meaningful customer ecommerce experience. According to a Bond Brand Loyalty report released last year, customer satisfaction with loyalty programs is 4.6x higher when they receive communications they feel as meaningful to them. Relevant content builds trust between the customer and the brand, keeping your company at the front of their mind when they are ready to shop again. To that end, be sure to analyze data you collect from loyalty program participants so that you can tailor your message to better engage them.

Social Engagement & Loyalty

Encouraging and measuring social media engagement is a great way to develop an effective loyalty program. You can offer points or rewards for certain types of engagement that make sense for your company. This could mean ‘Liking’ posts on Facebook, retweeting company posts, repinning items on Pinterest, or getting friends to sign up for your newsletter. By growing your social media community – and building a loyalty program along with it – you create enthusiastic, repeat customers, who are adept at spreading your brand to their own social circles.

Tea #LCOM contest

One Upshot client, Tea Collection, has developed a vibrant social media community and strong alternative loyalty-type program. Rather than offer points-for-purchase system, Tea periodically runs contests aimed at driving social engagement, such as their monthly #LCOM (Little Citizen of the month) image contest on Instagram. Each month the company provides a different theme and encourages followers to post images of their kids wearing Tea Collection clothing that exemplify the theme. One tagged photo is selected as the winner for special recognition and reward. This combination of social media engagement and tangible rewards for participants provides a unique experience that customers can’t find elsewhere. They recently moved the contest from Facebook to Instagram, which provides an opportunity to engage customers in new ways, across additional platforms, and expanding their social media impact. This type of engagement allows you to reward loyal customers and fans irrespective of recent or future purchases and provides a richer overall experience.

tea shop this gallery

Social engagement can also help you develop original content for your site. Offering customers incentive to write and post reviews of their purchases provides them with opportunities to meaningfully engage with your brand, and also provides you with unique content that in turn instills greater confidence in your brand with new customers. Responding to lukewarm or negative reviews also illustrates how seriously your company considers customer feedback – and can allow for meaningful interaction and dialogue.

Loyalty for B2B-D2C Expansion

Loyalty programs can prove especially useful for B2B vendors who are looking to expand into D2C markets. Creating a program that carefully considers your D2C business goals and your target customer base provides an opportunity to grow in new areas without directly competing with or undermining sales of your wholesalers. By providing customers with a unique experience when shopping directly with you – such as through points specials, private sales, other perks or social media engagement promotions – you provide customers with a reason to shop directly with you, rather than with a channel reseller.

Making Loyalty Programs Work

When loyalty programs are managed with an eye on their effectiveness, they are absolutely worth the investment of time and effort for a company. To ensure your program will be effective, take time to consider your audience and what type of reward experience will prove most meaningful for them – which will make for stronger loyalty to your company in the long run. Whatever structure your program assumes, it provides opportunities to compete through service and provide your customers with valuable ways to engage with your brand.  Points-for-purchase loyalty programs will be right for some ecommerce merchants; programs that focus more heavily on social engagement will work better for others. To ensure success, regularly assess goals and how your existing programs and strategies work towards those goals. Continue to analyze consumer data to understand customer expectations and perceptions of your brand and gauge the value they place in participating in your loyalty program.

Posted in Apparel Ecommerce, Customer Management, E-commerce Trends, Mobile eCommerce, Reports and Analytics, SEO and Marketing | Tagged | Comments Off on Cultivating Strong Customer Loyalty

Optimizing for International Growth – Cosabella Case Study

About Cosabella

Cosabella is a global, luxury lingerie company that has brought color and innovation to their industry for over 30 years. From bodysuits in the mid-eighties bringing innerwear out, to ultra-stretch lace bras far too beautiful to be hidden beneath clothing, Cosabella has always been on the forefront of new trends. They believe lingerie should reflect mood and each season bring vibrant, cutting-edge colors into their apparel, reflecting the high-energy, eclectic world. Moving forward with a solid digital platform, they look forward to continuing their story of excellence, ethics and quality.

The Challenge

Cosabella needed a platform that could support international storefronts, offer local currency conversions and multiple languages. Moreover, they needed easy-to-use inventory control tools, integration with multiple ERP systems, and dynamic merchandising tools to their vibrant and diverse collections.

The Process

As Courtney Connell, E-commerce Manager for Cosabella explains, they were looking for a solution that had the “scalability of Magento but that didn’t require all of the extensions that Magento would need to service our international, omni-channel, dynamic content and marketing needs.”

Explore Cosabella

With a checklist of over 100 variables to consider – including managing multiple warehouses, offering multiple languages, merchandising tools, and usability – Upshot was able to build a customized platform that delivered on nearly every metric. As Connell says, “I think most other platforms would have left us wanting more … Upshot left us with so much potential that it will take us a bit to be able to utilize all of the tools at our fingertips.”

Easy to Use and Ready to Go Global

Upshot provided all the necessary tools to allow Cosabella to create and integrate multiple, international storefronts. Their international component was complicated, requiring management for multiple warehouses on different continents, international payment options, and multiple languages to allow ease of browsing for customers. Upshot was able to streamline all these variables, and even created a ‘banner system’ to allow Cosabella to easily change images across sites, so that each region can be localized quickly.Cosabella Sleep Wear

Moreover, multiple storefronts meant an easy-to-use interface was essential. With many components to manage, a straightforward platform that permits quick, consistent updates is key to improving efficiency. “Everything about Upshot from the product onboarding process to the customer service dashboard was created for a fast pace company like us,” Connell says. “The interface is well thought out so that when you need something it’s there.”

The Result

Upshot recently launched the redesigned, as well as a new sister brand CSBLA. In addition to the essential international features and integrations, Connell calls out several other core perks to working with Upshot, including a “robust rewards program, bridal registry, abandoned cart email, review reminder emails, pick up in-store functionality and integration with marketplaces and CSEs”, which reduced Cosabella’s need to work with third party vendors.

Additionally, the dynamic content system, allowing Cosabella to manipulate everything by language, currency, or location – including product feeds – with minimal effort offer great opportunities for their marketing and other growth initiatives. Throughout the development process, Cosabella and Upshot worked as a team, seeking creative ways to address issues and develop a dynamic, customized system to meet the company’s needs.CSBLA Shop the Look

In their Own Words

“Everything about Upshot from the product onboarding process to the customer service dashboard was created for a fast pace company like us. The interface is well thought out so that when you need something it’s there.” – Courtney Connell, E-commerce Manager, Cosabella

Posted in Apparel Ecommerce, Client Case Study, Cloud, CDN and Scalability, E-commerce Trends, International Features, Merchandising Manager | Comments Off on Optimizing for International Growth – Cosabella Case Study

Financial Tools for Success in Cross-Border Ecommerce

You’ve determined that the time is right to expand your ecommerce company internationally. You’ve identified an ecommerce platform that offers multi-language solutions, offers an integrated backend toolkit to make managing your storefronts easy, and is versed in the SEO best-practices to ensure your translated, localized site will show up when customers search for the products you sell. Three important considerations remain before taking the global leap – currency conversion, shipping, and landed costs – to ensure customers complete purchases once they’ve found your global-friendly site.

Offer Currency Conversions in Real-Time

In addition to a marked preference for shopping in their native language, international customers appreciate having prices displayed in their local currency. Having a platform that can do instant conversions and present customers with accurate, current pricing in their preferred currency takes unwanted uncertainty out of the transaction and fosters greater confidence in your company with your customers.

Array of Currency

While third party vendors, like Borderfree, offer conversion software, the cost of utilizing their tools can often be prohibitive for small and mid-sized businesses. Having a platform that offers fully-integrated, real-time conversion eliminates the extra challenge and expense of integrating an external system. It also allows you to own and better understand and control your data. Reliable, accurate prices in their preferred currency lets shoppers in other countries feel welcome to interact with your brand, secure in purchasing your products, and inclined to promote your company.

Eliminate Surprises – Include Landed Costs

Unexpected costs are a primary reason customers abandon carts before completing their purchase. When courting international customers, landed costs and shipping are two figures that could determine whether a prospective shopper will purchase from your site or from a locally-based competitor. The Upshot international extension automatically calculates duties and taxes – based on customer location and cart contents – so there are no unexpected costs for the customer, either at checkout or upon delivery.
Never Say Never Sweetie with taxes

By including all landed costs – whether Canadian duties, VAT, or other fees – in customer transactions, you can reduce the number of packages returned to you through customers refusing to accept delivery, lowering return rates and ensuring your company will not have to absorb costs associated with refused merchandise and attendant lost sales.

Provide Straightforward (and Affordable) Shipping

As with landed costs, shipping can be an important consideration for prospective international customers. Providing an array of shipping options – at reasonable rates – is a crucial component to building lasting relationships with customers abroad. Expectations on shipping time and cost can vary widely from country to country – some customers prefer to wait longer while paying less; some are willing to spend more to get items faster. Upshot allows for integration with numerous shipping options – from the USPS to UPS to FedEx to DHL and more – all of which integrate seamlessly into the Upshot toolkit.

Cosa Shipping

By providing reliable shipping and delivery – including tracking information and insurance where possible or prudent – you foster confidence in your new international customers. Working with trusted brands signals to them that their merchandise won’t disappear somewhere between your warehouse and their front door. You can work with the shipping vendors that make the most sense for your target customers, offering price and speed that meet their expectations.

Global Currency

Moreover, if you have the capacity to ship from one of several warehouses, utilizing Upshot’s inventory management tools can help you ship merchandise from the location best situated to reach your customer quickly.

Planning for Successful International Expansion

As discussed previously, expanding internationally may not be the right step for every business. But when you’ve decided to make that move, invest in the tools to help you succeed. There are numerous additional considerations not outlined here, but planning for those listed above are a good first step. Presenting merchandise in local currency, with real-time conversion, including landed costs, and offering familiar and reasonably-priced shipping options will go a long way in courting shoppers abroad – and turning them into loyal fans and repeat customers.

Posted in Apparel Ecommerce, Checkout Management, Finance, Tax and ERP Tools, International Features, Shipping and Fulfillment | Tagged | Comments Off on Financial Tools for Success in Cross-Border Ecommerce

Multi-Language & SEO Tools for International Ecommerce

Online shopping has gone global; having a solid plan to take your ecommerce company international can prove fruitful. Offering a more familiar, welcoming experience to international customers is key to an effective international strategy. In other words: localization – through native-language pages and SEO optimization.Flags of the World

Multi-Language Benefits

Research indicates that customers are more likely to purchase from companies they feel comfortable with and for international ecommerce – this means sites that offer native-language content. Making the effort to convertat least some of your site content for international customers can translate into a significant competitive advantage. A survey conducted by Common Sense Advisory in 2014 of consumers in 10 non-anglophone countries found:

  • 75% of respondents preferred to shop in their native language
  • 60% rarely or never bought from English-only sites
  • 50% prefer to have at least some elements of a site in their native language

Making a great first impression, with targeted native-language content, may not be as challenging as you think. While it may seem necessary to translate all the content on your site into multiple languages to offer localized international browsing, that may not be necessary. The same Common Sense Advisory survey found that even limited localization – for the landing page and checkout pages – was effective in converting customers. It also provides an important starting point for targeted marketing, as well as an opportunity to provide payment, privacy, and shipping experiences similar to those international customers would encounter when shopping local sites.

Not Daunting – Straightforward

Offering multiple languages may seem daunting – won’t it require duplication of effort, maintaining separate databases for inventory, separate sites for each language? Not necessarily. A fully-integrated platform like Upshot makes it easy to offer and manage multiple languages from a single location. A dynamic content management system and adaptable site themes allow you to manage and merchandise inventory from a central toolkit and set zones for targeted marketing and customization. Rather than working through updates for dozens of countries, simply update each of your themes and changes are pushed out across your ecommerce storefronts.Cosabella German Landing

Upshot client, Cosabella, has taken advantage of these tools using a banner image system. Each site theme includes space for banner images to highlight products, which Cosabella can update quickly and easily based on one of many segments through their toolkit. With just a few clicks, each of their storefronts can be customized to reach their target audience.

Check Your SEO Localization

As Google and other search engines update their algorithms with regard to international sites and native-language returns, it’s important that your ecommerce site includes the features necessary to make you visible to your target audience. Having localized prefixes for each URL (e.g. /en-us, /es-us, /de-de, /en-fr for English – US, Spanish – US, German – Germany, English – France) that indicate target nation and language help your customers and search engines quickly recognize your nation-specific content, whether you translate your entire site or just essential components. A centralized backend toolkit makes it easy to manage all these storefronts effectively, as Cosabella is doing. This central toolkit also makes it easy to update banners and other localized content so that it appears in the target language, further improving visibility in search results.

Cosa UK Swimwear

Geographic-dependent IP detection can also help your customers find the right storefront, displaying content in the correct currency and in the correct language. The Upshot platform can automatically determine whether a visitor has a US cookie preference and redirect them to the US version of your site without interrupting customer browsing. Even if there is no cookie preference, Upshot provides tools to alert customers they are viewing content intended for a different location. The fewer barriers international customers encounter when browsing your site, the more likely they will be to complete their transaction.

Invest in International

Expanding internationally may not work for everyone. But if it’s the right move for your company, take time to focus on offering multiple language options – customers respond well when sites make the effort to provide native-language browsing and checkout. Also consider how your site will appear when international customers seek you out and make sure your SEO strategy meets the demands of international ecommerce. An ecommerce platform with a dynamic content management system that can provide multiple themes tied to a single backend toolkit can make the job a manageable – and sustainable – one.

Posted in Apparel Ecommerce, E-commerce Trends, Finance, Tax and ERP Tools, International Features, Merchandising Manager, SEO and Marketing | Tagged | Comments Off on Multi-Language & SEO Tools for International Ecommerce